Baku hands over 15 Armenian prisoners in exchange for maps of thousands of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines planted by Yerevan during illegal occupation of Fizuli and Zangilan regions.

Azerbaijani military officers hoist country's flag after the liberation of the city of Zangilan from the Armenian forces, in Zangilan, Azerbaijan on November 08, 2020.
Azerbaijani military officers hoist country's flag after the liberation of the city of Zangilan from the Armenian forces, in Zangilan, Azerbaijan on November 08, 2020. (AA Archive)

Azerbaijan has handed over 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for maps of 92,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines planted during the illegal occupation of the Fizuli and Zangilan regions.

The maps were submitted by Yerevan to Baku because of an initiative by Russia, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

"We express our gratitude to Rustam Muradov, Commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent temporarily deployed in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for his mediation services in the implementation of the humanitarian initiative to obtain mine maps," the ministry statement said.

Baku said the mine maps will save the lives of tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis, including those involved in mine clearance.

It will also accelerate the implementation of reconstruction and rehabilitation projects initiated by President Ilham Aliyev in the liberated territories, as well as the process of returning internally displaced persons, the ministry statement added. 

"As a humanistic step, the Azerbaijani side handed over to Armenia 15 people of Armenian origin."

"As a goodwill gesture, the Armenian side provided Azerbaijan with maps of minefields in the Fizuli and Zangilan regions," Armenia said.

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Tense relations

Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

New clashes erupted last September and ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire on November 10, 2020.

During a subsequent 44-day conflict which ended under a deal signed on November 10, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 illegal settlements and villages from nearly three-decade Armenian occupation.

The ceasefire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces withdrew in line with the agreement.

A joint Turkish-Russian centre was established to monitor the truce. 

Russian peacekeeping troops have also been deployed in the region.

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Source: AA